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Can a city’s history be told through restaurant menus? In a second installment of a special collaboration with the Library Foundation to rediscover the Los Angeles Public Library’s vast archive, USC professor Josh Kun uses the Library’s menu collection to explore the shaping of Los Angeles, from the city’s first restaurants in the 1850s up through the most recent food revolutions. Join him for a multimedia tour of the L.A. menu paired with a conversation on L.A. food past and present with chefs: Joachim Splichal (Patina Group), Cynthia Hawkins (Hawkins House of Burgers), and Ricardo Diaz (Colonia Publica).


Joachim Splichal

Celebrated by Bon Appetit and Food Network as “Restaurateur of the Year,” Joachim Splichal has been a leading force behind Los Angeles’ growth into one of the world’s premier dining capitals. Over the last 20 years, he has taken his creativity and ingenuity with food and married it to his business acumen to create not only the Michelin-starred Patina, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, but also with the Patina Restaurant Group, which today comprises over 65 award-winning venues coast to coast, as well as a world-class catering division. Splichal’s mastery of his craft has earned him numerous awards and distinctions throughout his career, including induction into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, two nominations for “Chef of the Year,” and a “Best California Chef” award.

Cynthia Hawkins

Cynthia Hawkins is the owner of Hawkins House of Burgers in Watts, where her commitment to serving “only the best” fresh ingredients for decades has lead her restaurant to be celebrated as one of the best burger joints in the U.S. Cynthia is the youngest in a family of successful entrepreneurs, and grew up helping her parents manage their “50’s style” malt shop, later converted to Slater Market- a neighborhood grocery store- before taking over the space and reinventing it as Hawkins House of Burgers. Cynthia’s restaurant has been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods,” and has received rave reviews from Los Angeles Magazine, LA Weekly 99 Essential Restaurants, Zagat, LAist, and Ask Men, among others.

Ricardo Diaz

Ricardo Jordan Diaz is the Chef and Founder of Colonia Restaurant Group. Diaz grew up in the restaurant business, and at the age of nine he was already washing dishes every weekend at his family’s Mexican seafood chain “El 7 Mares”. After opening a number of family locations he set out on his own to recreate the Latin dining experience. Starting with a few Dorados restaurants in the late nineties, Diaz went on to found Cook’s Tortas in 2007, Guisados in 2010, Bizarra Capital in 2012, Colonia Taco Lounge in 2013, Colonia Publica in 2014 and become Executive Chef of Santa Monica’s Tacoteca that same year. His goal is to expose patrons to the wonderful variety and extensive ingredients that Latin cuisine offers in its home countries.

Josh Kun

Josh Kun is a professor in the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. He is the author of the new book To Live and Dine in L.A.: Menus and the Making of the Modern City (Angel City Press) based on the special collections of the Los Angeles Public Library. His first collaboration with the Library was Songs in the Key of Los Angeles, an examination of the early sheet music of the city that resulted in an award-winning book, as well as new recordings, public concerts, and an online web series with KCET Artbound. He is also the author of the American Book Award winning Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America, co-author of And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Our Vinyl, and co-editor of Tijuana Dreaming: Life and Art at the Global Border, among other volumes.

Main image: Photo of the Atomic Cafe, from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

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